Bruce Gavin SCHULER

 

Missing man, Bruce Schuler, who was last seen while prospecting in the vicinity of the Palmer River.

Picture - The Courier Mail

 

Tip-off adds to intrigue of search for prospector in Cape York

Liam Parsons

Friday, July 13, 2012

© The Cairns Post

A CATTLE station manager has been questioned over the disappearance of an experienced gold prospector in Cape York.

The Cairns Post understands the man spent Wednesday night in the Atherton watch-house where he was questioned by police, before being released yesterday morning.

Mareeba resident Bruce Schuler, 48, was reported missing on Monday night by friends after he failed to return from a day out prospecting on the historic Palmerville goldfields, about 150km southwest of Cooktown.

Mr Schuler, who is a licensed prospector, made contact with his family on Saturday night and was last seen about 10.30am on Monday.

Cairns police Insp Peter Mansfield said an anonymous tip-off prompted police to launch an investigation.

"We are seeking assistance from that person to contact us again, we would also like anyone else with information or knowledge of (Mr Schuler’s) movements since Saturday night to contact us," he said.

Insp Mansfield said about 15 police officers and SES volunteers were involved in the search, as well as using a helicopter, quad bikes and officers on horseback.

"We’re obviously hoping that we do find Mr Schuler alive. However, the nature of the information given to us certainly makes his disappearance highly suspicious," he said.

Insp Mansfield said Mr Schuler was near the Palmer River when he went missing, but police were unsure of his exact location.

There are concerns about the difficult and rugged terrain where Mr Schuler went missing.

 

Gold digger missing, gunshots reported

A PROSPECTOR has vanished without trace on a search for elusive gold, as police investigate reports of gunshots in the remote Palmer River goldfields on Cape York.

Bruce Schuler, 48, thought he had struck it lucky when he took over a gold mining lease near the 1870s ghost town of Palmerville, a historic site of lynch-law hangings, cannibal raids, and untold wealth.

But his disappearance five days ago has baffled police as detectives investigate reports of gunshots in the area.

"We do hope we'll find Mr Schuler alive," Cairns Inspector Peter Mansfield said yesterday.

"It is harsh country, it is some of the hardest country you get anywhere in Australia."

Detectives sought to question Palmerville station leasee Steve Struber and his wife Dianne over the alleged incident but both refused to be interviewed and were released without charge yesterday.

Three fellow gold miners who were prospecting with Mr Schuler told police how they saw the grazier and his wife in the area armed with a rifle and heard two distinct gunshots on the day he disappeared.

Two helicopters, 15 police officers, a large contingent of SES crew, and stock squad officers on horseback and quad bike are scouring rugged terrain with no trace of the missing experienced bushman since Monday.

One fellow miner, who asked not to be named, said he was with Mr Schuler fossicking for gold about one kilometre upstream of the station homestead on the North Palmer River when his mate vanished on Monday.

"We searched everywhere, but have not been able to find neither hide or hair of him ever since," he said.

Mr Struber is notorious for deterring fossickers and tourists from his cattle property over the years, police said.

"Steve Struber has been on a permanent war footing with miners, prospectors and four-wheel-drive enthusiasts for years," Palmer River goldfields expert George Mayer said yesterday.

"He has locked the gates, dug trenches in the road," the fossicker said.

The Palmer River goldfields is harsh Cape York country.

The area is littered with old mine shafts and steeped in 1870s history of the gold rush when it was home to more than 35,000 diggers.

More than 1.3 million ounces of mostly alluvial gold was extracted from the region.

Insp Mansfield yesterday said a major incident room had been set up and a criminal investigation was underway into the "suspicious" missing persons case.

Insp Mansfield confirmed the Strubers had been questioned by investigators about reports of gunfire.

But there has been no sign of a body, he said.

He said it was "not beyond the realm of possibility" the missing gold miner had fallen down a mineshaft.

Mr Schuler's disappearance comes as North Queensland police continue their investigations into the whereabouts of Cairns couple Scott Maitland and Cindy Masonwells.

 

Aboriginal tracker joins hunt for missing Cape York prospector Bruce Gavin Schuler

AN indigenous police tracker has been brought in to hunt for a gold prospector missing on Cape York.

Queensland police hope the tracker will unearth clues about the fate of Bruce Gavin Schuler, who disappeared on the sprawling Palmerville Station more than a week ago.

The 48-year-old last made contact with his family on July 7 and was reported missing two days later. He'd been prospecting for gold with three other men on the station when he vanished.

Police are investigating reports of gunshots in the area.

Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar says the station is now a crime scene.

"We've got a crime scene warrant up there, for the whole of the Palmerville Station. That's 1200 square kilometres so it's a massive area," he told ABC radio.

Hunt for missing miner Bruce Schuler ends era of trackers

  • Peter Michael
  • The Courier-Mail
  • July 17, 2012 12:00AM
  • QUEENSLAND'S last police tracker was brought in to help unlock the mystery of missing gold prospector Bruce Schuler, 48.

    Barry Port, 70, spent three days and nights searching for any sign of Mr Schuler in what he described as some of the most difficult country and conditions he had ever known.

    The Mareeba miner was last seen alive about 10.30am last Monday while in a verbal stoush with a local grazier.

    Three fellow miners fossicking with Mr Schuler about a kilometre from the Palmerville station homestead reported hearing two gunshots. But even Mr Port's hunt for blood, clothing and tracks was not enough.

    He said the extreme difficulty of picking up an old trail was made harder by debris scattered by the down-draught of searching helicopters.

    "It's hard country to track in," said Mr Port, who joined the Queensland Police in Coen in 1981. "It's very hilly.

    "There are lots of broken trees and limbs. They've had the choppers overhead for days, which threw me off.

    "I could not find any signs to follow. We were looking for bootprints, bits of clothing, his pick, shovel or metal detector, stuff like that."

    Two helicopters have been deployed as part of the search involving 15 police, SES crews and stock squad officers on horseback and quad bikes.

    Mr Port's unique tracking skills are a dying art.

    The Lama Lama elder is the final link in the historical chain of indigenous police acclaimed for their skills in finding people lost or hiding in the scrub from famous cases such as tracking down Ned Kelly, to uncovering secret drug crops or missing bushwalkers.

    Coen police's Sergeant Frank Falappi, who works closely with Mr Port, said the tracker, one of three once based in Coen, was impressive to watch.

    "It is a pity no one is following in his footsteps," he said yesterday.

    "I haven't seen anyone his age move as quickly over country as he does.

    "It is amazing what he can see in the landscape. He can see human and animal tracks in the bush that are almost impossible for us to make out, even when he shows us up close. It is a dying art and a terrible shame the tradition of police tracking not be continued."

    Mr Port is the last Queenslander to wear the police tracker badge and epaulets.

     

    Search for missing man draws a blank

    Liam Parsons

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    © The Cairns Post

     
    CREWS are continuing to camp overnight in harsh terrain on Cape York as the search for missing gold prospector Bruce Schuler enters its second week.

    The 48-year-old Mareeba man vanished on July 9 after he became separated from three fellow prospectors along the Palmer River, west of Cooktown.

    The 1200sqkm Palmerville Station remains a crime scene, while aerial and ground crews search for clues to Mr Schuler's disappearance.

    The search party includes an Aboriginal tracker, helicopter, ground crews and police on horseback.

    "We have a crime scene warrant for the whole property," Far Northern Region regional crime co-ordinator Det Insp Bruno Asnicar said.

    "There are certain places we are looking at."

    The case was still being treated as a missing persons investigation, but there were grave concerns for Mr Schuler.

    "It's been a long time and he is a local up there," Mr Asnicar said.

    "He knows the area very well, he was well kitted out with GPS and so forth so it's extremely concerning he hasn't walked out."

    Police have confirmed reported gun shots are being investigated and two people were released from custody after being questioned over Mr Schuler's disappearance.

    Mr Asnicar said the Aboriginal tracker was helping lead crews through the thick bushland and gullies.

    "I believe he is the last tracker we have and he's an absolute expert in tracking people through rough terrain," he said.

    Police chase missing prospector leads

    By Kirsty Nancarrow - ABC

    Posted Thu Aug 9, 2012 9:49am AEST

    Detectives investigating the possible murder of a far north Queensland prospector will attend the state's gold panning championships in Mareeba this weekend.

    It is one month since Bruce Schuler, 48, went missing while prospecting with three other people near Palmerville Station in Cape York.

    Senior Constable Russell Parker says more than 20 police, including the homicide squad, are continuing to piece together events leading up to his disappearance.

    "Anyone that's experienced issues there with the landholders, problems with access and so on, any threats and so on we would like to receive that information from them," he said.

    "To that end, the detectives will be up in Mareeba this weekend.

    "The Queensland Gold Panning Championships are being held there on Saturday and they'll be setting up our mobile police facility."

    Couple accused of murdering missing gold prospector

    By Kirsty Nancarrow - ABC

    A far north Queensland couple is due to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court today, charged with murdering a 48-year-old Mareeba man.

    Bruce Schuler was reported missing by fellow gold prospectors near the Palmer River, south-west of Cooktown in early July, and his body is yet to be found.

    Yesterday, police including officers from the homicide squad, arrested a 55-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman, from Palmerville, in relation to Mr Schuler's death.

    They are in custody and both are due to appear in court today, charged with murder and improper conduct with a corpse.

    Regional crime coordinator Bruno Asnicar says detectives are still trying to find his body.

    "It's involved a lot of police from Brisbane - it's involved every officer, every detective in every section that we have here in Cairns," he said.

    "It's had a lot of scientific and forensic resources allocated to it.

    "We've had the dive squad up here searching rivers and we've had SERT [the Special Emergency Response Team] involved protecting those personnel because of the remoteness of the area and the risk of crocodiles."

    He says there has been extensive land and air searches to try and locate Mr Schuler.

    "That hasn't occurred as of yet - I want to say though that this isn't the end of that either," he said

    "This investigation is continuing - I intend to continue to throw as many resources as I need at this investigation for a considerable period of time yet."

    Cape York couple convicted of murdering gold prospector Bruce Schuler in far north Queensland three years ago

    By Sharnie Kim - ABC

    Updated 

    A Cape York couple have been convicted of murdering a gold prospector, who disappeared on their property three years ago.

    Mareeba man Bruce Schuler, 48, went missing in July 2012 at Palmerville Station, sparking a massive air, ground, and underwater search which failed to find any trace of him.

    Following a two-week trial in the Supreme Court in Cairns, a jury found the station's leaseholders Stephen Struber, 58, and Dianne Wilson, 55, guilty of murder.

    In sentencing the pair to life imprisonment, Justice Jim Henry said: "It has been well over a century since the turbulent, sometimes violent days of the Palmer River gold rush.

    "That in this day and age, long removed from those frontier days, it beggars belief that station leaseholders could become so detached from standards of civilised behaviour and could've engaged in such cowardly and callous behaviour as this."

    It was a murder case without a body or any direct forensic evidence linking the couple to Mr Schuler's death.

    From the outset, the crown conceded it did not know exactly who had killed Mr Schuler or how, but argued there was enough circumstantial evidence to prove one of the couple had, and the other was a party to it.

    "Where did this offence take place? Palmerville, or as [one witness put it], 'Struberville'," prosecutor Nigel Rees told the court.

    "A property that is some 500 square miles in size. The size of some small countries. And probably, probably, one of the largest crime scenes ever declared.

    "You may also think that's enough space to dispose of a body."

    The crown's case rested on the evidence of Mr Schuler's fellow prospectors, who reported hearing two gunshots several minutes apart after a vehicle matching the couple's pulled up in the area they were searching for gold.

    They were on the land without permission, and Struber had confronted one of them about a week prior, telling him to get off his land.

    Justice Henry said the couple may have fired the first shot to scare off, or injure Mr Schuler.

    "Once begun, this conduct obviously spiralled out of control with the probably panicked but truly dreadful decision made to pursue and shoot again," he said.

    "It was surely that callous, calculating behaviour which in the jury's unanimous view elevated this beyond manslaughter to a case of murder.

    "Consistent with that dreadful choice you followed through and disposed in some unknown way of the body of Bruce Schuler."

    The trial heard police found drops of Mr Schuler's blood, burnt patches of grass, and tyre marks matching the Strubers' car in a gully about two kilometres from the homestead.

    Defence argues crown failed to prove Bruce Schuler is dead

    The prosecutor said the couple had demonstrated no remorse through the proceedings, and had denied any involvement in Mr Schuler's disappearance.

    Under cross-examination, Struber said the couple was not in the area the shots were heard, and had spent the day repairing a loader.

    "We weren't there," he repeatedly said on the stand.

    During the trial, the defence attacked the credibility of Mr Schuler's companions, highlighting inconsistencies between what they told the jury and what they told police initially about how well they saw who was inside the vehicle.

    Defence barrister Joshua Trevino argued the crown had failed to prove if Mr Schuler was even dead.

    'Why did you hurt him? Where is he?'

    The court heard Mr Schuler had purchased a mining lease a year prior to his disappearance, and was a loving husband and father of two.

    "You know he was happy, you know he enjoyed prospecting, he had the support of his wife Fiona, and you know he has not been heard from since the 9th of July 2012," Mr Rees said.

    Mr Schuler's wife of 28 years, Fiona Splitt, read a victim impact statement out in court, saying her world had stopped after her husband was murdered "and then discarded somewhere unknown like a piece of rubbish".

    "How could someone have so little regard for human life? What sort of evil must live inside of someone that could be this immoral and depraved?" she said.

    "Why did you hurt him? Where is he? How do I ever stop this nightmare from tearing my heart and mind apart?

    "I will not rest until we find Bruce and bring him home.

    "No-one deserves to be disregarded like he's been. We deserve the opportunity to say goodbye properly, to lay him to rest. Until we bring him home our family will truly not have any closure."

    The case behind the Far North murder of Bruce Schuler

    IN a murder mystery which harks back to the wild days of the Palmer River gold rush, a couple who slayed a gold prospector and hid his body deep in the Far North Queensland outback have been sentenced to a life behind bars.

    Cape York graziers Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber have been found guilty of murdering miner Bruce Schuler on their vast Palmerville Station, after finding him fossicking up a dry gully on their property three years ago.

    Presiding judge Justice Jim Henry said their “cowardly, callous” killing was a return to the tumultuous days of the late 1800s gold rush, which occurred on the same rugged country where Mr Schuler was shot dead on July 9, 2012.

    With no trace of Mr Schuler ever found and no witnesses to his killing, his daughter conceded her family “may never know” what happened to the 48-year-old father of two.

    But a jury has now determined Mr Schuler was shot dead and his body discarded somewhere on a 130,000ha property which spans a “river of gold.”

    “It has been well over a century since the turbulent and sometimes violent days of the Palmer River gold rush, that in this day and age, long removed from those frontier days, it beggars belief that station leaseholders could become so detached from the standards of civilised behaviour and could have engaged in such cowardly, callous behaviour as this,” Justice Henry said.

    Principal Crown Prosecutor Nigel Rees admitted he could not say exactly who played what part in Mr Schuler’s demise, and built his case on circumstantial evidence to ultimately have the co-accused convicted.

    In a two-week trial in the Cairns Supreme Court, the jury heard about a gold strike, the boom of gunfire, missing weapons, a missing body and flecks of blood found on a rock.

    The jury was taken on a two-night trip to view key locations on Palmverville – described by Mr Rees as “probably the largest crime scene ever declared” – and told about a Croc Hole, Cannibal Creek, empty mine shafts from a foregone era, and a ghost town to the east.

     

    The trial hinged on the testimony of three gold prospectors – Daniel Bidner, Tremain Anderson and Kevin Groth – who were on a fossicking expedition on “Struberville” with Mr Schuler when he vanished.

    In handing down two life sentences to the Strubers yesterday, Justice Jim Henry speculated on the doomed gold digger’s final moments.

    “This probably began with one of you shooting and intending to hurt, or at least scare off a prospector who you perceived to be a trespasser,” he said.

    “Once begun, this conduct obviously spiralled out of control, with the probably panicked, but truly dreadful decision, to pursue and shoot again.

    “Consistent with that dreadful choice, you followed through and disposed in some unknown way of the body of Bruce Schuler.”

    Before Struber and Wilson-Struber, aged 58 and 53 respectively, were locked away for life, a final plea was made for them to give answers to the family of the man they killed.

    “Whether there are earthly remains of Bruce Schuler to now be found is solely within your knowledge, as is the whereabouts of those remains,” Justice Henry said.

    “It remains within your power to bring closure to the Schuler family ... by revealing the whereabouts of their loved-one’s remains. For as long as you do nothing about that, you continue to affirm your detachment from the civilised standards of our society.”

    Family of murdered gold prospector Bruce Schuler launch petition to deny parole to killers who don’t reveal body location

    THE family of murdered gold prospector Bruce Schuler has launched a petition to keep killers behind bars unless they disclose where their victims’ remains are.

    Mr Schuler’s body has not been found since he vanished while prospecting on the Palmerville Station more than three years ago.

    Graziers Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber were found guilty of his murder in July, but have subsequently appealed their convictions.

    Mr Schuler’s widow, Fiona Splitt, launched the petition in the Queensland Parliament on Tuesday, which is called the “No body no parole rule”.

    In the petition, Ms Splitt said she was calling for an amendment to the Corrective Services Act 2006 to make it impossible to obtain parole without disclosing the location of the victim’s body.

    “By making parole contingent upon the location of the body, it is hoped that this may give some closure to the victim’s family and provide incentive for prisoners to co-operate with police and other authorities,” she said.

    By last night the petition had already received more than 250 signatures.

    Daughter Lisa Schuler said her mother had driven the idea, but their large extended family was right behind it.

    “We’ve pretty much been left in the dark for three years,” she said.

     

    “We just want to spread the word and get everyone on board. And it’s not just for us, but for other people involved in the same situation.”

    Police searched the 130,000ha station during the murder investigation following Mr Schuler’s disappearance in July 2012.

    The accused couple was on bail throughout legal proceedings and the land remains private property, so his family has been unable to enter and conduct its own searches.

    Ms Schuler said that if granted access, they had a large group of family and friends who had offered to help with a search.

    A date is yet to be set for the appeals.

    To sign the petition, click here.

    Seeking no parole for killers who hide location of body

    Bruce Schuler murder: Stephen Struber, Dianne Wilson appeal against convictions

    By David Chen - ABC

    Updated 

    A couple convicted of murdering a gold prospector in far north Queensland are appealing against their convictions.

    The Supreme Court in Townsville is hearing new evidence over the 2012 murder of Bruce Schuler, 48, near Cairns.

    Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson, both in their 50s, were last year found guilty of killing Mr Schuler on Palmerville Station.

    His body was never found.

    A Senior Constable has been giving evidence this morning, revealing inconsistencies with tyre track measurements taken by police at the time.

    He told the court he could not be sure if tracks made on the rough terrain were from one vehicle or more.